It all started in the early 1830s when William Teacher began making blends and selling them at his grocery store. After he was granted a license in 1856, he opened a ‘dram shop’ and with time, the number of such establishments grew to eighteen. Although there were several of his blends sold over the counter, the one that gathered most affinity was the Highland Cream. And to keep with its increased demand, the Teacher’s family saw the need to set up the Ardmore Distillery to ensure a ample supply of the malt that formed the heart of the blend. The brand opened its doors to the Americas post the Prohibition Era and sales began accelerating so much so that with the rationing ending during the Second World War, they needed to open another distillery – Glendronach.
The 1963 conception, is now available in over 100 countries and continues to be a flagship model for the Teacher’s Brand. The Highland Cream is not your usual blended whisky and those who have had the opportunity to flavor it might have cringed a time or two – at least at first! I’ve heard both ends of the spectrum – ’smooth and creamy’ to ‘ashtrays, petrol and phenol’. It’s much too peaty and not what you would expect when thinking of a blend. The flavors are bold, rich and complex and in ways mimics some nuances of Islay and Highland malts; characteristics most likely attributed due to its 45% malt content constituting some 30 odd pours including the peaty rich Ardmore and the Sherry drenched Glendronach – at least until the latter was taken over by the Chivas Brothers.
The bottle too has transformed with time, accentuated shoulders, bolder lines and a stronger presence; more like its older, mute form sporting a slim fit shirt. Also part of the Teacher’s new persona is the addition of a glowing thistle and a declaration of its secret sauce, the presence of rich peated malt.
There’s no doubt that this blend has contents matured in sherry casks in addition to American Oak barrels. The color is certainly not completely acquired but rather a tone or two richer due to the addition of E150 Caramel coloring. The age of the mix should be somewhere between 3 and 6 years but the flavor and the nose does tell you something else, a much older, mature blend.
Eye: Deep Gold +2
Nose: Starts with sweet caramel, burnt sugar and sherry. This is soon followed by the smell of brine, strong wooden embers and cigarette ash. Letting the whisky open introduces some citrus zest and Christmas cake.
Taste: Sweet sherry and creamy malt, almost immediately trailed by wood, seaweed, salt and betadine solution. The sherry slowly evolves into a mild and enjoyable sweet, raisin-plum cake with time.
Finish: Short, peaty and Sherried.
The Highland Cream just like all the other Teacher’s blends are a great stepping stone into the world of malt. For the novice, these flavors can be a put off, but once you get over the initial hurdle chances are you will go back, again and again! Considering the price, it really does give you more bang for the buck. The increased malt content adds a lot of depth and intensity in terms of flavors; and the experience just gets better as you let the whisky breathe.
My recommendation would be NOT to taint the flavors, but in the end the choice is yours. One ask, do not mix this with Coke, Pepsi or any kind of cola as I feel it totally decimates the flavors, but that’s me!